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Research Lab Offers Opportunities

July 2011

As part of the recent move to the Center for Health Sciences Education, the Physical Therapy Department has acquired space and equipment to expand research opportunities. The temporary location for the research lab is currently in the lower level of Hayes Hall. 

Equipment in the lab includes five real-time infrared cameras; one three-dimensional force platform surrounded by a three-meter walkway; and a 10 channel surface EMG system. Future plans include the addition of one more camera and another force platform that will allow full-body, three-dimensional kinematic and kinetic analysis of gait. The system is capable of recording and analyzing virtually any type of motion.  

Studies being considered initially include measuring sit-to-stand performance before and after a task-specific training regimen and characterizing differences in the process of initiating gait from a quiet stance in older individuals with and without a history of balance impairment. 

The first research endeavor in the lab was a project with a group of undergraduate students in the St. Ambrose University Undergraduate Summer Research Institute (USRI). Under the supervision of Bryon Ballantyne, PhD, and Katie Trujillo, PhD, students majoring in Biology, Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience and Industrial Engineering spent six weeks conducting research on the effects of age and cognitive load on balance performance. Students valued their experience in the lab and presented the results of their work to the campus community in July. They will also be encouraged to present the results at the 4th Annual Undergraduate Scholars Conference in April 2012.  More details about the USRI can be found here.

The lab also has created opportunities for collaboration with other departments on campus. Currently, Ballantyne is partnering with Jodi Prosise, PhD, in the Industrial Engineering Department to develop the procedures and software necessary to analyze data collected in the lab. Eventually the lab will be relocated to a remodeled space in the east Pavilion of Genesis Medical Center, West Campus. The new location will be easily accessible for both patients in the hospital and the community, as well as other individuals who may serve as research participants. Overall, the addition of the lab space represents a giant leap forward in the capacity of the department to conduct research and contribute to the body of scientific knowledge for the physical therapy profession.

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